Chapter 6: Hope Means A Lot

The day before a major trial, the judge calls both lawyers into his chambers, with a very stern expression. “So, I have been presented, by both of you, with a bribe. You, Mister Abrams, gave me ten thousand dollars. And you, Mister Chandler, gave me fifteen thousand dollars.” The two lawyers bow their heads in shamed embarrassment. The Judge takes out a check for five thousand dollars, and hands it to Mister Chandler. “Now then, let’s decide this case on the merits!”

“Tonight, at sundown. That’s when the Dreamwalk will be ready.”

“Christ, that soon?” I frowned. It was two AM Monday. I sat in the living room of my home, crammed into one of the plush, overstuffed chairs designed for someone four feet tall. Jenny lay curled up in another of the chairs, a cup of hot cocoa and blood in her hands. It was her third pack. Polly sat on the fancy chintz couch, her soccer ball on her stomach, her head in Alfred’s lap. The man himself sat back, his hands stroking and teasing Polly’s hair gently, dressed in a bomber’s jacket and a pair of jeans. He nodded. “Seems faster than usual.”

“I already had all the chemicals I needed for the elixir. And the sooner we get there, the better. Emotional patterns will already be smeared from Saturday. Sunday night it was closed, tonight it’s open again. We need to preserve the crime scene as much as possible.” I grumbled, frowning darkly. “Look, the blend is perfectly safe. Psilocybin, mescaline, a dab of DMT, a little Datura for that blending of borders, and some LSD for texture.”

“Datura kills people, you know.”

“I’m not some backyard botanist. This is medical grade, part of the Liberal Dark Arts stash. Perfectly safe. Believe me, I’ve measured out our doses exactly. We’ll get two hours of solid Dreamwalk time. Harmless as aspirin.”

“I… don’t know if I wish to take illegal narcotics,” Jenny said, frowning.

“I’m afraid that all three of us will need to take it. I am taking it so that I can initiate the spell, and turn it from a simple hallucinogenic trip into a Dreamwalk. We need you there to act as a kind of translator for the emotions we experience. A Rosetta Stone, if you will. We will be searching for your memories. Without you there to provide context, it will be a mishmash of unfamiliar sensations. And of course, Atina needs to be there to make sense of the whole thing.”

“Basically, we don’t know what questions to ask right now, Jenny. We don’t know who it was that made you. We have reference to a Hispanic woman at the scene. Is she one of the Camazotz? Is she the mummy that was in Lady Ann Willing’s entourage? I don’t know. She could be someone completely unrelated to either of them, there are plenty of Hispanic women in the world. We also don’t know who else might have been around.” I sighed, and sat back as Alfred smiled.

“The drug and the spell together will give us great awareness awareness. It shows you reality. True reality, I mean.” I rolled my eyes as Alfred began his spiel. As I understood it, the spell was good old-fashioned psychometry, except the part where it worked. It was also prone to giving me nightmares. The things I saw while I was dreamwalking were extremely vivid, and rarely pleasant. I’d never taken any hallucinogens as a kid, and taking Alfred’s little dreamwalk solution reminded me, often vividly, why I had decided not to. I sighed softly, and rested an arm over my eyes, slowly thinking it over.

“I suppose that if it’ll help to prove my innocence… You’re not going to be able to use anything you see as evidence, though, are you?” Jenny asked me, forcing me to return to the conversation.

“No. Again, though, it’ll tell us who we should pursue. Anyway, we can worry about that later. First things first, after I get some sleep, I need to talk with the members of the jury that I know. Edwin Albert’s first. He’s up at the Binghamton Airport, so…” I took a deep breath. “Polly, I need you to stay here, with Jenny, while me and Alfred take his car up to talk with Albert. Alright?”

Polly nodded. “That’s going to be a little tricky, though, isn’t it? I mean, he’s a ghost, right? I read some of your files. What makes you think that he’s going to see you?”

“I have a connection that should help me out.” I gave a smile.

“Ugh. I always feel weird when I talk with him.” Alfred frowned. “He always calls me sport.”

“Yeah, but I’m pretty sure it’s a sign of affection. Now let’s get some sleep. Tomorrow’s going to be a long day.”

Overnight, it snowed. I woke up around 10 AM, and worked together with Alfred and Polly to shovel off the walk for liability purposes. Then we cleared some more snow off Alfred’s modest Honda, and he and I set off towards Greater Binghamton Airport. I leaned back in the chair, my knees uncomfortably compressed by the glove box. We drove through the streets, and out into the hills, where the road was freshly plowed and salted.

I am of the opinion that, in the summer time, upstate New York is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Rolling hills, farms, forests, a once mighty and ferocious mountain range now turned soft and sweet by an endless parade of similar summers. Sugarloaf hills and soft green fields full of flowers and life. They were something special, and honestly, I was grateful for them.

Winter, however, was a different story. In winter, the world transformed into a stark moonscape. A blanket of perfect, untouched snow, occasionally kicked into glittering waves by the wind. Fence posts and rusty barbed wire sticking up like the remains of a drowned forest. Trees standing in the thousands, the tens of thousands, denuded deciduous and impervious evergreens standing together. It was a time when everything in the world seemed dead. It was a time when the sunlight lasted barely a third of the day. It was when everything was crystallized, lakes, cities frozen in stasis, unending and unchanging. It was the Undead’s favorite time of year. It was- “So, did you see the paper this morning?”

I nodded. “That assault case? On the secretary of the Treasury. It’s hard to believe, isn’t it?” I shook my head. “The world seems like it’s getting crazier.” I drummed my fingers on my knee. “Alfred… You remember that big bruhaha with the plague, last September?” He nodded, frowning. “I read that book the journalist put out. The whole ancient cult and all that ridiculous shit, trying to summon a god.” He still didn’t answer. “Alfred, do you believe in God?”

“Never met the guy.” He looked over at me, and the two of us broke into laughs, as we drove down the lonely Airport Road. “Seriously, Atina, what are you getting at? I read that book, too. It’s bull. If there were some guardian deity in New York, we’d have heard about it.” He gave me a grin. “Admittedly, on the night of the eclipse, the Harbingers in the Department of Infernal Affairs did get a real bug up their ass about the apocalypse, screaming that the end was nigh and all that. Then the next day they sobered up and were embarrassed for weeks. Hardly a year goes by that they don’t predict the world’s going to end, and they always wind up proven wrong. What’s got you thinking about all of this?”

“I don’t know. Just seems like things are getting… crazier. Look at this case. This should be straightforward. But there are so many major figures trying to get their foot in the door. Why now?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. But that’s not our job. We’re the attorneys. We can’t stop the end of the world or change the course of mankind. What we can do is help Jenny in this case, and hope that’s the right thing to do in the broad scheme of things.” He looked up. “We’re almost there.”

John Peer met us in the break room. An air traffic controller, he had bags under his eyes as he flopped down into a couch with a large cup of coffee. “Jesus, Atina. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I had really been hoping I wouldn’t see you again.” He took a seat as I slipped a dollar into the machine, and grabbed a candy bar.

“Yeah, well, I warned you that the undead take that ‘Till Death Do You Part’ vow very seriously. But no, you just had to get that divorce.” I sat back. “How’s the arm?”

“It still aches when it rains, and when I see you.”

“Get over it. Is Link in?” John nodded, and closed his eyes. After a couple of seconds, Edwin Albert Link strode through the wall like it was just another entrance.

“Well, Atina! And Alfred! Hey, sport, you ready to make a pact and help me take the Department of Postmortology back from that bloodsucking leech, yet?” He gave me a brief glance. “No offense meant to you or your client, Atina.”

“I’m afraid I have to turn you down this time, Mister Link.” Alfred smiled politely. “I’m still quite happy with the Department of Liberal Dark Arts.”

“Feh, soft science.” Link snorted. “Well, then, Atina. I’m guessing I know what you want to talk to me about. John Peer, get back up in that control room after you finish your coffee, just in case some damn fool tries to land on the runway.” He strode through the door, and I followed, leaving Alfred to relax in the lounge.

The two of us strode out onto the airfield. The field itself had been plowed clean, leaving the frozen grass sharp and bright. Edwin took a deep breath through his nose. “God, just smell that air.” I did likewise. The lingering scent of jet fuel mixed with bitter cold air to simultaneously make my nose burn and freeze, the sharp scent of frost filling my head. “It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?” He gave me a toothy grin. “Have I ever told you how I wound up making my fortune?”

He had. Many times. But it was the kind of story worth hearing again. “Let’s hear it once more, just in case.” I gave him a bright, warm smile.

“Hah! That’s what I like about you, Atina. You’re willing to give an old man the chance to yammer on at a pretty young lady.” He smiled forlornly. “It’s one of the downsides they don’t tell you about being a ghost, you know. It’s hard to get new stories once you’ve died. You always seem to wind up making the same mistakes, going down the same paths…” He stared out across the field, his arms crossed. “This girl. You think she’s innocent?”

I winced. “I don’t think she deserves to die. Do you?”

“No.” He blew out a breath, and it failed to crystallize in the cold morning air. “This case doesn’t look good for you, LeRoux. Five of the jurors are hard-liners, forming up behind Lady Ann Willing. You’ve got no chance with them unless you get the Lady herself. That Chaac woman sounds pretty firmly in your court, she’d probably be with you even if Jenny was guilty as sin of murdering that boy. Vampire solidarity. Same seems to be true of the judge. Not that that helps you any.” He grunted. “Is it so much to ask for that people could look beyond who they are, sometimes? That they could do what’s right, instead of just dividing along the old tribal lines again?” He shook his head.

“We don’t think she killed Tony, her boyfriend. She’s been hungry. Damned hungry, for the last few days. More than she should be if she’d drunk an entire body’s worth of blood.”

Link nodded. “Well, that’s something, at least. But we both know it’s not going to be enough. I know a few of us on the court are mostly concerned with that gluttony charge. How’s the girl’s mental health going? You think she’s going to be killing to get her fill?”

“No, sir. I really don’t. We’re going to try to find out what happened.” I took a deep breath. “And if this comes down to a split decision, and the judge makes their choice?”

“I don’t want this city torn in half, Atina. If I think it’ll come down to the judge, I’ll vote for the girl to be executed, much as it’ll hurt. And so will the three spooks who I’ve talked with. Mallory, Barker, Tetch. They want a good argument, but they don’t want some outsider making a mockery of our justice. That’s the long and short of it, Atina. I won’t see everything I’ve fought to build broken down by those goddamn bastards. But!” He turned and spun, holding a finger out at me. “You convince me that girl isn’t a threat, you get one of Lady Ann Willing’s people to flip, you keep it from coming down to that bloodsucking bitch of a judge, and I’ll fight this to the end on your side.” His pointing finger lost its accusation, and he held his hand out. I took it and felt, just for a moment, the tingle of energy. Then he dropped his hand to his side and turned back to stare out over the field.

“If I might ask, sir, what do you think is the Nostra Notte’s game? I had someone try to grab me Saturday night.”

“I’ll be damned if I know. Those bastards claim they want a better life for vampires, but you can’t trust what an organization says they want.” He stared out across the field, his hands clasped behind his back. “You got good people watching your back?”

“Yes sir.”

“Good. Don’t want you joining the world of the dead early, Miss LeRoux.”

“One last thing, Mister Link.” He turned, an eyebrow raised. “That boy, Tony. He didn’t have much in the way of family left. Parents and grandparents gone, no siblings, no kids. Jenny might be the last thing that’s still keeping his memory alive.”

His eyes opened wide for a moment, and then narrowed. “I never believe in all that stuff about a man disappearing. Maybe you can’t do much about this world when you’re on the other side and forgotten, but I don’t believe you fade away.” He crossed his arms, as though he was feeling the cold for the first time.

“Just thought I’d let you know. See you soon, Mister Link.”

Alfred turned down the radio as we pulled down the road, heading back towards the city via a roundabout route that would take us to Binghamton University. “How’d it go with Link?”

“About the way I expected. A little better, even, maybe. He confirmed the battle lines for me. I need Professor Morton on my side, which is going to mean a bribe, and god only knows what that’s going to cost me. Chaac will need to be on my side, although that doesn’t sound like a huge problem. And then I’m going to need to show Link that this girl was not responsible for her boyfriend’s death.” I rested my head in my hands. “And unless I can get Lady Ann Willing to see reason, none of it will matter a shit, because if this comes down to the judge, nobody will accept the verdict. Poor Jenny’ll probably get pitchforked right there in the graveyard.”

Alfred patted my shoulder gently. “We’ll figure something out. If our job was easy, we would not be heroes.”

“We’re not heroes, Alfred. We’re lawyers.” I gave him a smile, and we merged onto the highway. I tore open the candy bar, and wolfed it down hungrily, eyes closed. It wasn’t healthy, but ghosts fed on- of all things- blood sugar. After a few minutes talking with Link, I needed something to perk me up. And maybe I also wanted something that would make me feel a bit better about myself. I refused to let myself feel guilty about that.

“So what happens if Jenny was responsible for Tony’s death?”

“Then we act like lawyers. We argue that she wasn’t really responsible for it. Put forth evidence that she was a freshly turned vampire, with no blood in her body, that she’s been put in a position where she couldn’t control herself, a situation that will never repeat. Hope like god that we get away with probation.” I stared up the long drive that lead into Binghamton University itself. “Do you mind staying in the car while I talk with Morton?”

“I’d prefer it, in fact.”

The Department of Postmortology is, on the books, a subdivision of the Institute of Biomedical Technology at Binghamton University. They operate mostly out of the basement. The population is close to a score of furtive, nervous looking grad students, and half a dozen lean, pale faculty members. It was a dead end in many senses. Sure, they got some good work done, but advancement was widely considered impossible, primarily because of Dean Morton himself. He believed in a strict hierarchy of age equaling stature in the institute. And the undead didn’t retire.

“Ah, Miss LeRoux. Such a pleasure to see you! SUCH a pleasure. How has your practice been coming along? Lucrative?” He gave me a bright smile as he stood in the office. It was not luxurious, exactly, no bright windows opening on to the rest of the campus, no pleasant paintings of previous occupants. The room’s decoration was primarily in a theme of ‘bones’. Not human bones, mind you. There were ape bones, lion bones, and my personal favorite, the colossal set of megalodon jaws which were set against the wall around the doorway. I stepped very carefully over the bottom row of razor-sharp obsidian teeth, wondering- not for the first time- whether Dean Morton could make the jaws snap shut with a whisper of necromantic energy. I also tried very hard not to think of what that would feel like if he decided to do it to me.

“I get by.” I looked around the office. The back wall was arrayed with diplomas in all manner of fields. Every five years, the dean took a leave of absence to capture a new degree. He took a delight in being well-rounded. “How’s the Dean’s list going? Any choice applicants for your scholarship this year?”

“Ah, the students nowadays aren’t as they used to be. I fear that I may have to suspend the program this year.” Every year since he’d become a Lich, Dean Morton had run a scholarship program. The most ‘deserving’ student of the Department of Postmortology was given a pact with the Lich. This brought with it, understandably, immense power and prestige. The competition was utterly cutthroat. And I had it on good authority that for as long as he’d been running the program, he’d complained of the quality of the applicants, and threatened to stop it. He never had. “Now, down to business. You need me to vote on your behalf.”

“Yes,” I admitted.

“One hundred thousand dollars, and a favor from you and Jenny if she is set free.”

I sat down weakly in the chair. That was all the savings I’d scraped up over two years. I’d have to liquidate my investment account. And I’d be desperately low on money until I got another decent case. It could ruin my practice. “If I might ask… I know for a fact that you’re worth several million dollars, at least. Why on earth do you need that much money?”

He smiled, his teeth shining brightly. “Why, isn’t it obvious? To see how much you want this. To see how much you will sacrifice to win this case. Money motivates so many people out there. They will do anything, if they are paid the right amount.”

“Case in point.”

“Oh, I don’t need the money. And the favors are the real price, here. A favor from you, and from the first vampire to be spared by Lady Ann Willing? Those could be terribly valuable, given time. But money matters the most to those who don’t have it. A hundred thousand dollars from me is a trifle. For you…” He tapped his fingers together. “Would you have to give up your house? Would you be unable to support those you love? Would you starve in the streets? Probably not. But it will make life very difficult for you.”

I took a deep breath, and thought of Jenny.

There are many values of a human life. Governments set the value of a human life to decide what they can accept to prevent deaths as far as costs go, and their estimate is impressive- Ranging from six to nine million dollars. Other people value it less. People get murdered over sneakers, over the contents of a wallet, over all kinds of stupid things. I thought of Jenny. This wasn’t even a hundred thousand dollars to save her life. It was a hundred thousand dollars to get a slim chance at saving her, and I wouldn’t get it back if I lost.


The dean’s teeth showed as his lips drew apart into a death’s head smile, his fingers laced together beneath his chin. “And that is why I like you, LeRoux. You would sacrifice everything to win. It’s not about the money for you. Do you know how rare that is?”

“You’re in a graduate student program. I thought you’d know a lot about people to whom the money doesn’t matter.”

He laughed uproariously, smiling, his teeth shining like tombstones in his mouth. “Oh, even here, people dream of wealth! Of ease. Of plenty. What most people want is to be safe, and secure. That matters to them more than high-minded ideals. And yet, there are still those like you, Miss LeRoux, who would sacrifice everything they have to balm their conscience.” He smiled. “There are a handful of people who come into this world, and realize how much they owe. They realize they are in debt to their ancestors, to their parents, to their society, and that no amount of work they put in will ever make up for it. And yet, they try anyway, desperately. On the backs of such people, the world continues to spin on.” He leaned back. “I will expect the first payment of ten thousand dollars by the night of the trial, and the rest over a nine month period.”

I was going to need to liquidate the coin collection. The Half-Faced Man had been right. Who would’ve guessed it? “And the favor?”

“Something to be determined in the future.” He tented his fingers together, and smiled. “You know how this goes.”

I took a deep breath. “And. I want your aid in proving Jenny not guilty.” He raised an eyebrow.

“What did you have in mind? I could try to bring back her boyfriend’s shade, if you had some blood from a blood relative of his.”

“I don’t think that would help. For one thing, he doesn’t have any I could get ahold of quickly. And for another, I don’t have reason to think he remembers what happened to him any better than she does.” I shook my head, and frowned. “Have the Notte Nostra come to you?”

“Oh, they have. And they offered a very substantial bribe. Far more than what you offered.”

I swallowed, and my veins turned to ice. “And what did you tell them?” I asked, feeling suddenly very fragile.

“I told them I would do it in exchange for the head of the Notte Nostra, to do with as I please.” Dean Morton smiled icily. “They grew quite irate at that, but did not try to take things any further. This is not about the advantage I will gain. Not this initial price. This is about how much it means to you.” He tapped his fingers along the desk. “I doubt that Fang Fen will be bringing an offer to me, which is why my price is so relatively low for you. A single favor and a price that will cause you hardship. That seems worthwhile as a cost for my risking the stability of my institute and this city.” He smiled. “I know that I am thought of as conservative. As a fogie. As someone who does not bet on the future, and who remains mired in the past.” He leaned back in his chair. “I invite you to prove me wrong.”

I was quiet in my chair as Alfred drove. “How’d it go?”

“I need to pony up ten thousand dollars by the Sunday after next. And then another ninety thousand.”

“I don’t have that much.”

“I know.”

“How much is your house worth if you take out a second mortgage?”

“Not that much. I’ll figure it out. It’s going to hurt like hell.”

Alfred gave me a weak smile. “I’d offer to help, but-”

“We’re none of us wealthy. I know. I can pay this. It’s going to suck, but I can do it.” I let out a slow hiss of breath. “The blood-sucking old leech is testing my commitment. The Notte Nostra approached him too, and he turned down their offer. And they can definitely pay more than I can.”

Alfred frowned. “Is he? That doesn’t sound like him. I’ve never known him to be impossible to bribe. Even if he dislikes the Notte Nostra, one would think he’d be flexible.”

“Yeah.” I frowned. “But it’s still going to hurt. Whether I win or lose, that’s going to suck.”

We drove along through the streets. Lady Ann Willing lived on the outskirts of Binghamton, up in the hills. Her house was visible from most places in Binghamton proper, a white space in the forested slopes. As we drove up the slope, I tapped my fingers nervously on my knee. “Do you want me to come with you?” Alfred asked, an eyebrow raised.

“Yeah, I’m sure that having you flirt with Lady Ann Willing will make her less likely to have my client beheaded.” I took a deep breath. “I’ve got this.”

The sitting room was elegant beyond words. Understated, comfortable chairs, each one perfectly sized for its occupant. A man whose name had to be Jeeves stepped out of a side door, carrying a silver tea pot and three bone china cups. “I hope you don’t mind Earl Grey?” Lady Willing asked politely.

“It would be a pleasure.” I bowed my head. Three cups were poured, and the three of us sat around the table in a small circle as Jeeves-In-Spirit left, stepping backwards out through the door. “Lady Ann…”

“She’s going to be executed. Even if I have to kill her with my bare hands. It would not be the first time.” Lady Ann Willing sipped at her tea as I gaped. Even Chaac, sitting at her own chair, looked slightly shocked. Then her noble, native features hardened as she spoke.

“Then you have no intention of allowing a fair trial-”

“I will allow a fair trial. And whether she wins or loses, I will take her death on my own head. If that means I am branded an oathbreaker for the rest of my existence, so be it. If it means that I meet my own end at the hands of a vampiric cabal, so be it. If that means you kill me in turn for the injustice, Chaac, then so be it. But she will die for what she is.” She sipped her tea again. “You know what vampires are, Miss LeRoux?” I didn’t answer. I could see a lead-in to a rant coming. “They are power, not taken, not cultivated, not made, not earned. They are power given. They are power by circumstance of birth. They are power by accident. They are the old ways. They are the bloodlines of nobility and royalty. They are the idea that in this world, some men are born with power, and some are born to serve. That your parenthood determines who you are.” She looked up, and I had never seen those silver eyes so angry as when they met mine. “They are an abomination. And what do I see before me now, but vampires, conspiring to take away the one thing I still have left? The one thing that my husband left me.”

“That is hardly fair-” Chaac began.

“Then recognize the girl! Or call upon your mistress to recognize her! Or demand the Notte Nostra recognize her! Bring me her parent! Show me who it was who took two of my people, humans under my protection, and stole their lives! Make them pay the price, if they wish to see justice done!” Lady Ann Willing stood. “You two may discuss your conspiracy. I will not spare the girl. I will wring the life out of her with my bare hands if I need to. It is not fair, and it is not justice, but it is all that I can do for her, to save her from being turned into a pawn for some cold-hearted monster.” She turned, and strode out of the room, leaving me sitting with Chaac. I took a sip of my tea.

“She seems unhappy.” I gave Chaac a look. “Where is your mistress? I don’t think I’ve spoken to anyone in the city who’s actually met her.”

Chaac sat very still, and looked down at her lap. The handsome, arch woman folded her hands in her lap. “Can you keep a secret, Miss LeRoux?”

“If it’ll save my client, no.”

“I do not think it will, but I do not know.” She took a deep breath. “Do you know how many Camazotz there are in the new world?” I shook my head. “As of last year, there were perhaps two dozen, usually in enclaves of two to six. And do you know how many there are now?” I frowned.

“How many?”

“Two. Me, and my mistress.” She stared down at her hands. “Something is hunting us. It has hunted us down to the last two. This is why my mistress came here. We have survived for centuries without losing one of us, but now, we are nearly extinct. We desperately need new Camazotz. My mistress went into hiding soon after we arrived here, and I have not seen her since. I suspect she was the one who may have converted the girl, but she may have been attacked and driven into the shadows.” She crossed her arms. “If Jenny is indeed related to me… I want her safe as much as anyone. I will provide what aid I can. I have employed the services of two of the local undead, if you would appreciate their assistance; A young man named Arthur, and a woman named Roquette. I believe you met them.”

I frowned, and tapped my fingers on the chair. “Do you have an idea of what it is that’s hunting you?”

“An idea. But I cannot tell you. I fear that if I did… It would taint you.” She met my eyes. “My mistress refuses to face what is hunting us head-on. That frightens me. She is powerful, and anything that could hunt her is fearsome. But I have hope. If you can fight to show that this place will save her…” she took a deep breath. “The problem is, all of this smacks of bait. A trap. I am not certain who could be responsible. The Notte Nostra seeking to eliminate a rival. The Lady Ann Willing seeking to crush those she hates. They would have to be powerful to be a threat to our ancient breed, but secrets are well-kept here. For being so young, the undead in this city are often terrifyingly powerful. Despite her distrust, the Lady Ann Willing could stand a fair chance against me if she wished, and she is less than half my age. My mistress no doubt suspects a trap at the court. If you show that they can acquit her, that they might fight for her life…”

“So you think if I can persuade them, I’ll persuade Hun-Came. She might show herself if it can be proven that the undead of this city don’t want to kill her.”

“I am sorry. It is hope. But that is all I can offer you right now. I do not even know if she is truly my sister. But even if she is not, she does not deserve to die for the grudges of beings older than she. What else can I give you?”

I nodded softly. “I guess I’ll have to take it.” I handed her a card. “This is my phone. If you should happen to come up with any ideas, or if your mistress should get in contact you, call me.” I stood up, and gave her a smile. “And hope means a lot to me.”

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